Re: Why do singers use vibrato?

In Cecil’s answer to the question “Why do singers use vibrato?”, he says that vibrato is added into a singer’s sound for effect, and that good singers can sing without it.

I study classical voice at the University of Washington, and Cecil is basically wrong. The fact of the matter is that the natural tendency of the vocal cords is to flap around quite a bit. While any singer can sing without vibrato, and many singers who have not had any or very much voice training might think that a straight tone is perfectly healthy, the truth is that singing without vibrato imparts a very small amount of unwanted tension into the voice, and when a singer gets into his or her higher register, a tone without vibrato often sounds downright horrible, and feels even worse.

As a singer climbs higher into his or her range, a greater amount of release is required. You will be very hard pressed to find an operatic tenor who can sing a high C without letting a lot of vibrato come in.

This is quite true. There are several different ways to produce musical sounds from the voice, but if you want to be able to sing full voice for several hours, without amplification, and without injuring yourself, the techniques you must use are the classical techniques, which produce a natural vibrato without any actual effort or intention to do so.

Yes, I studied voice for 6 years and at first I had no natural vibrato. After a few years it found it’s natural place in my voice and I can sing for hours with no problems. It is true that you can sing without it, but to do that you are definitely holding back it’s natural tendency. A skilled singer can hold one note and let the vibrato fade in and out, but it takes less effort to allow vibrato than to forcefully hold it back.

Just to be clear, Reaver, that’s a Staff Report written by Ian of the SDSAB, not by Cecil.

I’ve edited your OP to provide a link to the Staff Report you’re discussing. It’s helpful for others, when you start a thread, to provide such a link.

True. Another way of putting this is that some singers don’t choose to use vibrato, it just comes naturally.

And there are people who will insist that some singers, like Stevie Nicks, come by their vibrato naturally…

… because there is a sheep somewhere in their family trees.

You may know that the castrato–a castrated boy who never achieves sexual maturity and thus always speaks in a high voice–was prized in Mozart’s time because he could sing higher notes without any vibrato, which, I guess Mozart decided, was inevitable with a female vocalist The Catholic Church was the last institution to ‘manufacture eunuchs’ (Isaac Asimov’s phrasing) and discontinued the practice in 1878. Much of Mozart’s music cannot be played any more, or at least those parts sung, since there are no more castrati.

An example of someone who could control vibrato at almost any end of his range was Roy Orbison. His chief complaint on getting older (according to his biography) was that it was difficult for him to keep it out of his singing, particularly in the higher range.

Because they can’t get a real date? :confused:

Oh, you’re funny, ouryL.
Vibrato, not “vibrator”!
You may have seen a bizarre Warner Brothers cartoon made in 1940, titled The Sour Puss. Porky Pig and his cat go fishing. Their prey is a crazy flying fish that acts like Daffy Duck, but instead of Daffy’s lisp the fish speaks in a “lunatic vibrato,” saying things like “Gee, ain’t I a card though, Oh boy, I’m killing me! Gosh, am I funny! I’m a panic!” (At the end, they’re all scared away by a strange shark, who imitates Lew Lehr, with the squinty eyes and snag teeth; he says in a Mortimer Snerd voice “Pussycats is da cwaziest peoples!”)

It is interesting to learn that the vibrato sound in a singer’s voice is a natural sound. The first time I noticed the vibrato in a singer’s voice was while watching some old B&W movies - all of which seemed obligated to include someone singing. Personally, it bugs the heck out of me as I thought they were simply tyring to overdo it.

Personally, it doesn’t sound right to me. It still bugs me, and with some singers, it almost sounds like they’re yodelling instead of singing. It’s a shame the vocal chords need effect this to reduce strain. I don’t care for it.

  • Jinx

Vibrato’s good. I always thought that singers that didn’t use vibrato just sounded like they were yelling. :smiley:

That would explain the sound of Whitney Houston, to me , anyhow. - Jinx

I don’t think vibrato is necessarily inherent in everyone. While I’ll claim ignorance on the physiology, I think it’s more in how we learn to sing a note. If we listen to pop music mostly, we may have a tendency to sing a note without vibrato until the end of the note, where we add vibrato for effect. If we’ve listened to classical, we’ll probably start the vibrato immediately.

Some people (I’m supposing those who don’t have an “ear” for music) may not pick up on the nuance of vibrato at all, and sing without it naturally.

I’ve heard Gregorian Chant in the church with vibrato, and it just sounds wrong. Sometimes, a beautiful, haunting tone can be produced without vibrato.

That said, I can’t imagine sustained, loud singing without vibrato.

And lastly, I think for most singers, vibrato does naturally creep in and it takes more effort to remove the vibrato from the tone. And even more to make it sound beautiful.

On an oldies station in L. A., I sometimes hear a song titled “Crimson and Clover” (artist unknown), in which one verse is sung with an exaggerated vibrato, suggesting (1) The signer was affecting the tone or 2) The station was broadcasting into a fringe reception area. :confused: :smiley:

Because they’re lonely and horny!

What? Oh, vibrato!

Never mind.

The version of “Crimson & Clover” I’ve most often heard sounds altered by more than vibrato. Either it’s sung through something other than the mouth, or it’s technologically altered.

I remember this! And, it was funny in that application. But, this made me stop and think. Imagine if we all spoke that way? We’d all sound like…like…like the lonely goat herd! I guess that’s why vibrato bothers me. Sometimes, I admit, it is better done and less annoying to me than other instances. - Jinx

(Sigh!) Musical amplifiers have had that “tremolo” effect at least since the 1950’s.

Hey, Foolsguinea, do you happen to know the artist’s name? I was sort of dropping a hint… :slight_smile:
About your signature line: there was once a trivia column in a newspaper with this goof:
Q. Which planet is larger, Juniper or Saturn?
A. Juniper.